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Josh Sargent ready to carry Norwich City form into World Cup debut

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Josh Sargent has enjoyed plenty of positive moments over the past few months with Norwich City, but now after earning his first-ever World Cup call-up to the U.S. men’s national team roster, the in-form forward is seeking a smooth transition from club play to the biggest tournament in the world.

Sargent earned the nod in Gregg Berhalter’s 26-player final roster last week and is busy preparing for the Americans’ opening match of the World Cup, a Monday showdown with Wales at Al Rayyan Stadium. After suffering English Premier League relegation with Norwich City last May, Sargent has picked himself back up in the English Football League Championship during the first half of the season.

Sargent is tied for the Championship lead with nine goals in 19 appearances for Dean Smith’s squad, a major step up from his two tallies in the Premier League last season. The 22-year-old is flying high ahead of his first World Cup appearance with the USMNT, and credits the Championship for helping him improve.

“I think going down one league to the Championship definitely helps,” Sargent said at a media roundtable in Qatar. “I’m not going to act like it doesn’t have anything to do with my form, but being able to get off to a good start with a couple of goals has helped get my confidence going. I think my mentality has changed a lot.

“Obviously playing against these types of players, every three days in the Championship helps give me a bit of knowledge of how those players like to play,” he added about the familiarity the Championship provides to the Wales squad. “It’s a very physical league. The defenders especially – big guys, very physical.”

Sargent’s impressive start to life in the Championship earned him a call-up to the USMNT’s September camp for friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia, but his form did not carry over to international play. Sargent only played 45 minutes in a 2-0 loss to Japan before being an unused substitute in a goal-less draw with Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain.

After not being selected for majority of the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying schedule over the past 12 months, Sargent has returned with a vengeance and brought everything he’s learned at Norwich City with him to Qatar.

“It was obviously a very tough time when I wasn’t being called in,” Sargent said. “I felt like I was doing everything I could, but as a player, that’s all you can really do, is just work as hard as you can at your club. It’s his [USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter’s] decision. So if you’re doing everything you can, you don’t really have any time to hang your head.”

“I think being able to drop down and combine with the team as a false No. 9 is important, as well as scoring goals,” he added. “You’ve got to find the balance because you can’t come to the ball every time because you’ve got to get behind the backline as well. I think you have a big role of being able to pressure the backline too. I think I have all of those qualities and I have been doing the same things at Norwich.”

Both Wales and England will provide some familiarity to Sargent due to his involvement in the Premier League and Championship over the past year. Sargent has featured against players from both World Cup squads during his time with Norwich City, experiences that could benefit him in the upcoming matches.

Wales played with five defenders at the back during its struggling UEFA Nations League campaign, conceding 11 goals in six matches and finishing bottom of its group. Although there are several experienced players in Robert Page’s defensive unit, Sargent’s versatility could play a major role in an important first match of the group.

“Josh is an example of—he does a lot of things well,” Berhalter said about Sargent following the USMNT roster reveal. “He’s also competing against these guys from England and Wales every single week. He’ll have familiarity with the opponent, which we think will be valuable, and I think he gives a physical presence with his aerial duels and his competitive nature that’s going to help this group.”

“I played with a few of them and I think opposite movements will be good for us,” Sargent said. “Drawing their defenders out will be our goal, they play five in the back so it gets pretty tight. As soon as we see one of their defenders jump in to try and make a challenge, we have to try and find ways to get behind them and break them down.”

Comments

  1. Vacqui, I had forgotten, but Wondo’s Glorious Field Goal was in regular time. If he puts that away… we win the game.

    Imperative — Jurgen did not stick with an empty bucket. he tried a 3-4-3, a 3-5-2 and other stuff during the second cycle. But Bradley got lazy in Toronto, Yedlin lost form in Newcastle, Brooks never figured out his concentration, Not sure what happened to Fabian and Chandler, Bobby Wood??? Ariola??? anyway that whole generation of guys (the 25-30 yr. olds now) were just not good enough (they still aren’t there) although it seems we might have some late bloomers at CB (and I’m not talking about Aaron Long).

    Point is, I have always thought JK got a raw shaft and I stand by it.

    So anyway…

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  2. the reality is the reason the coach emphasizes club form is dude barely got called during WCQ and hasn’t scored in the shirt since like 2019. so we have to talk club because no matter how cold you thought pepi or pefok went for country it’s not been that long or that cold. and then the irony is they all struggled in germany and one could view “form” as merely isolating the one who started their first and left the B.1 earliest.

    the premise is also goofy as there is too much wondo/ twellman/ lassiter “league god who can’t score internationally” history to say club form equates to anything. roldan is a fairly productive MLS mid who for 30-odd caps has gold cup assists on martinique and jamaica to show for it. landon did fine translating club to country. others have not. not that reliably predictive. what is more predictive? go with the ones with other goals in the shirt. or look at talent, skillsets, and a system and try and make this cohere for a change. i wouldn’t even mind if the idea on wright is get more counter and vertical. but then that’s not sargent or even really ferreira.

    i feel like we have lost a lot of basic 101 type international coaching understanding — eg use a system that makes you better, defend organized, don’t assume club production means country value — as this whole thing rebooted under GB. to me the test of cleverness is superior results. get down to it this is an older roster than 2002, and less successful than most US teams since roughly 1994. after decades of playing germany or holland close sometimes in friendlies, we can barely win a friendly against moderate opposition out of region. this is only “progress” relative to 2017. if you can’t match old USA competitiveness you aren’t more clever than they are. and fwiw when i watch our world cup competition i see a bunch of 352 451 4222 etc. to me the 433 and tactics some see as so innovative is broke-down and going back to just holland and spain using it while trying to finish second. the fashion trends the snobs were trying to imitate have moved on to newer formations and tactics.

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    • Or maybe what a player does every week is more indicative of success than what they did 18 months ago. Perhaps a 15 year pro with 10 more years as a manager can look at players across a variety of leagues and identify that how a striker is creating chances and the way he is finishing either translates to the NT or doesn’t. Maybe said manager with contacts across the world has insight into how players are progressing instead basing it on a friendly following a pandemic in which a 1/3 of the roster was unavailable do to travel restrictions 24 months ago.

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      • JR.

        “Or maybe what a player does every week is more indicative of success than what they did 18 months ago.”

        Or maybe the reality is the teams that seriously contend for the World Cup are mostly about a heavy dose of luck allied with very good depth.

        It’s a short tournament ( 7 games at most) over a short period of time. Injuries and card issues have an outsize impact( hence the importance of depth). Every team has the same disadvantage of being an All Star team with, comparatively speaking, little time together.

        It’s a round robin at first that moves quickly into
        the knockout game phase.

        Those of us familiar with the American sports scene recognize that this is not unlike the myriad playoff systems in mainstream American sports. So we should mostly be used to the appearance of the come out of nowhere, “one hit wonders”, so to speak. The heroes who we’ve never heard of before and, afterwards, never hear from again (Nick Foles?) .

        So you can take Mr. V’s, what have you done for the USMNT system, the club form Nazi’s and Gregg’s analytics and lump them all together. The World Cup will very often piss on all three.

        In 2014 who had ever heard or even knew anything about John Brooks beforehand? What was his track record for the USMNT? But without that goal the USMNT very probably does not advance.

        For that matter, who the fuck, besides Sigi Schmid, knew anything about DeAndre, beforehand? For those of you who did not watch, Yedlin was clearly a huge dynamic revelation, maybe our best player. And what was his track record for the USMNT beforehand?

        Which is what makes watching the World Cup so much fun.

    • “the fashion trends the snobs were trying to imitate have moved on to newer formations and tactics.”

      It’s ironic.
      Most here seem to think JK was a crap manager.
      In 2014, his WC group had Germany, Ghana and Portugal
      Anyone here think that those teams were weaker at the time than today’s Group of Wales, Iran and England?

      Most everyone here seems to think the 2022 WC roster is the most talented WC roster we’ve ever sent it there.

      And many here think Gregg, like JK, is a muppet.

      Two crap managers
      More fearsome competition in the 2014 Group
      More USMNT talent in 2022.

      It sounds like the logical assumption is the 2022 team should advance rather handily. JK’s team drove Belgium to extra team and nearly got the game to penalties. So logically, whoever Gregg faces if they advance , they should also do as well. And Belgium at the time was a WC contender.

      “to me the test of cleverness is superior results. ”

      If they don’t advance then JK is more clever than Gregg.

      Given how little most here think of JK what does that say about Gregg.

      I rate JK as perhaps the most consequential manager. He got the results you, Mr. IV , claim as proof of cleverness.

      And

      While we kind of knew it already it was fun to watch JK shake up the feckless, old boy’s club, USSF clown car cabal system in a way only an outsider can do.

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      • one thing people forget on JK is he started out spreading the field and playing guys like gringo and mixx. the team struggled then on the eve of 2014 he switched to an empty bucket and defensive mids, jones, beckerman, bradley. people hated it but the choppers were better ball players than the technical guys. results improved. we got something done. he didn’t just “433 til we die” off the bridge with the same basic unit. he went where the talent took him and with the system that got results. this is what i don’t see on GB, is a grasp of the fullness of the pool, as well as different types of systems and which ones suit us better. this is a dogmatist with a fairly short list of players he thinks have the profiles for his dogma. that dogma then has to work.

        let’s be real on JK, by his second cycle he became a hardened club snob and dogmatist himself. the empty bucket became dogma and he developed his own set of frustrating regulars. he didn’t seem to react as they struggled through gold cup 2015, copa america 2016, the regional playoff, early qualifying. the pool had weakened but the flexibility was also gone. right when we needed a superior coach he lost the plot and became stubborn about selections and system. arena then, to me, shifted to a better system but had his own selection blindspots, the dual nationals disappeared, he could never sort out the backline.

        i think we need a fresh start, new coach, someone less of a system zealot, good eye for talent, pick a formation and tactics that fit more of our best players. i think at this point the talent is far superior to 2018 — hence we’re where we are — but we’re still in dogma-land.

        so, yeah, i’d like to get the old tactical flexibility and eye for talent back, but i don’t see JK as some pure example of it. he started in the wrong system with the wrong people and ended up back there the next cycle. but what he did do was adjust the first time.

      • side point on klinsi, the first cycle, even when they struggled, it looked good. even got some results like italy away. then they played team defense in the 2014 heat and got results. i struggle with the results now are just ok and it rarely looks pretty either. if it looked pretty that’s at least a sign it’s well oiled by the coach.

        part of what surprises me is the aesthetic snobs haven’t demanded it look pretty, or like their “pep” or “barca” dreams. GB to me is a career midtable manager with one tactical note. we need someone with versatile tactical chops but who coaches teams to first place.

      • What results did JK really get? 1 GC in 3 tries also lost the Concacaf Cup to Mexico. He finished first in qualifying which no one cares about and you don’t get a trophy for. By the end despite all his “you’ve got to test yourself against the best” was choosing majority MLS rosters. Finished 2nd in group with Ghana who weren’t getting paid, Portugal without Pepe. If not for Tim Howard putting in one of the greatest performances ever by GK we lose to Belgium 4-0 as we did to Argentina in the Centenario. I think we’re seeing some of the benefit of the organizational changes he pushes for but as a manager he didn’t move the needle much of anywhere. And I was a Berhalter guy.

      • JR; i view the first gold cup of the cycles — the ones that usually have A team players — as telling. you go back the last three cycles and we finished 2nd 2011 (bradley fired), 4th 2015 (klinsi later then didn’t qualify 5th), and 2nd 2019 (qualified 3rd). i wouldn’t dismiss WCQ because it’s as close as we have to a full home and away league with the regional powers.

        klinsi made that 2014 cycle better than it might have been by recruiting and properly evaluating the dual national germans who briefly plugged the developmental hole that became the 2018 cycle. he also was willing to get pragmatic if cute didn’t work. as a result i thought his 2014 team punched above their weight. that was already in decline and could have been worse.

        i think GB by comparison punches below weight. we have more talent than he will select, and the tactics are dogma instead of practical. i think this should be the best team in the region. i think the degree to which he has changed how we play is exaggerated. i think UCL fanboys like how he talks and the 433. this doesn’t look that pretty and technical in reality, and i’m a practical person who wouldn’t care how it looks if they dominated all the time. that’s a snob obsession, and i think in terms of soccer snob ball he hasn’t actually drilled that in very well, and isn’t the first coach to promote possess and keep it on the ground. this has gradually been growing out of game long kickball for decades and his role in that is exaggerated by people who instead seem to respond to how far he goes down that road — we rarely goal kick past half field, clear it even when we need to, etc. in my personal experience to a naive degree. there are times i’d rather a dangerous ball in our third be launched to the moon than forced to the wrong guy in the other jersey. that is smart soccer the best teams in the world will do when necessary and not get hung up on the purity of. we looking to win games or pass purity tests.

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